Sunday, September 24, 2006

A tragic story

I was shown this article (link).

The 24-year-old remains in a coma with multiple injuries in Indiana.



BOARDMANTownship native Kade Kotheimer, 24, married his college sweetheart and moved to Indiana two months ago to begin a career as a firefighter.

On Sept. 15, he was involved in a minor traffic accident and got out of his car to check on another driver. He was then struck by three vehicles and remains hospitalized in a coma with multiple injuries.

"He probably thought that he was safe in the center lane," said his father, Kim, a township police detective. "I probably would have thought the same thing."

A van pulled into the lane and struck him, sending the 2001 Boardman High School graduate airborne and into oncoming traffic, where another vehicle struck him, according to published reports.

A third vehicle then ran over him as he lay in the road, his father said.

The Indianapolis Star reported that the driver of the van doesn't have a driver's license and has a long record of traffic offenses.

Kotheimer had just started a job as a firefighter for the Speedway Fire Department in Indiana about two months before the accident. He graduated in the spring from the University of Akron with a degree in fire science and got married a few months ago.

Trust fund established

Members of the Speedway Fire Department have established the Trust Fund for Firefighter Kade Kotheimer to help with expenses.

More information is available on the Internet at There's a link to the Kade Kotheimer Fund.

Donations may be made at the National City Bank branch at the Southern Park Mall. Although the Web site indicates all branches may accept the donations, the mall branch is the only Mahoning Valley location where the fund is set up.

His father said that Kotheimer and his wife, Denae, had just closed on a new house two days before.

While in high school, Kotheimer was active in band and theater orchestras and the jazz band, but he always wanted to be a firefighter.

"From the time he was young, he said that's what he wanted to do," his father said.

He enrolled in the cadet program through the Western Reserve Joint Fire District, a program where 16-and-17-year-olds learn about firefighting.

Chief David Comstock Jr. said that's where Kotheimer stood out.

"The No. 1 thing was he was very enthusiastic," Comstock said. "He always had a positive attitude."

He also showed a passion and knack for the job, the chief said.

The Speedway firefighters also plan a benefit motorcycle show Oct. 3 for their injured comrade.

Lt. Jeff Hartman of the Speedway department said about 2,000 red bracelets, with Kade, SFD and his badge number, 160, written on them also will be sold to raise money.

Checks to the Trust for Kade Kotheimer also may be mailed to Hartman at the station, 1410 N. Lynhurst Drive, Speedway, Ind. 46224.

Serious injuries

Kotheimer's injuries include head trauma and multiple fractures in both legs, but his father said his condition has improved over the last week.

A tracheotomy tube has been inserted to help him breathe, and a feeding tube is being inserted in his stomach, Kim Kotheimer said.

"In the neurological intensive care unit, they told us that they don't measure in minutes or hours, they measure in days and weeks and months," he said.

Kim Kotheimer credited his son's department for their fund-raising efforts and support since the accident.

Joe Rush, a Speedway firefighter, said individuals within the 34-member department are working Kotheimer's shifts so that he continues to receive a paycheck. Others are working to paint the couple's house and get it ready to move in.

Hartman, who also serves as president of Speedway town council, said the employees are contributing sick time to pitch in for their injured co-worker.

The fact that Kotheimer worked at the department only a short time before his injuries is irrelevant, Rush said.

"It doesn't matter if you're here for one day or for 20 years, it's a brotherhood," he said.
Friday, September 22, 2006

Please keep them in your prayers and help in any other way you can. Here is a link to the department and what they are doing to help. (Link)

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Who are we

Both John Paul II and Benedict XVI have stated that the difference (the main one, at least) between Christianity and Islam is the nearness of God.

In Islam God is very removed. Majestic to the point of total mystery.

In Christianity God is still a mystery, but His desire of love and redemption for His people can be seen fully in Christ. Emmanuel, God with us. God is a mystery, but He wishes to share with us the heart of His nature through Christ.

John Paul II respected the core of Islamic theology as submission to the will of God.

And Benedict recently has been focusing on reason in faith. And reason as part of God's nature.

So to put them together we have the examples of Mary and the Garden. Mary submits totally to the will of God. Christ, in the garden, struggles against the opposition of human will and divine will and submits to the will of the Father in total love.

But in Islam, if God is such a mystery, reason can not be used to grasp His will. Violence or peace can be equally valid in a theological sense since He is a total mystery. This, I think has been the point the last two popes have been striving to hammer home. Dialogue is possible, but only if we understand the differences and the reasons for them.

In Christian theology we have Christ as our guide and window. We have Mary as an example as well. And Joseph, as well, who submits to the will of God. We have glimpses of the will of God and His desires for us by virtue of our examples of submission, and by our greatest example: The Cross.

Even with these examples (not to mention all the saints), the greatest examples in history, Christians can place reason apart from faith or enact faith without recourse to reason.

The points of the popes are as much a call for us to examine how we practice our own faith, as a call for us to understand how Islam differs. Only if we do both can we be true representatives of our faith in meaningful dialogue.

Perhaps the results of all of this will be that we will see which side of Islam will speak for Islam in that dialogue. One that wishes to bring reason or one that does not.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Nun shot in Somalia offered forgiveness with dying breath

The story speaks for itself:

Mogadishu, Sep. 19, 2006 (CNA)
- The Consolata missionary sister who was shot dead by Islamic extremists in Mogadishu, Somalia, forgave her killers with her final breaths.

Sr. Leonella Sgorbati, 70, was shot five times in the back, in broad daylight, as she was walking back to her residence from the pediatric hospital where she gave medical training. Sr. Sgorbati was returning home at midday for lunch. Two gunmen reportedly jumped out from behind parked cars and opened fire on Sr. Sgorbati and one of the security guards who accompany the sisters when they cross the street, reported MISNA. The guard also died.

The attackers were reportedly well aware of the sisters’ daily routines and knew that the only moment to strike was when they crossed the street. Other sisters heard the shots and ran out onto the street, only to see the gunmen fleeing and Sister Leonella on the ground.

“We followed the stretcher into the hospital, where Sr. Leonella was rushed to the operating room. The medics brought four or five sacks of blood, but as much as they put in, came out,” Sr. Marzia Feurra, a Consolata missionary, told MISNA. “When the surgeon arrived he told us that there was nothing left to do.”

Sr. Feurra described Sr. Sgorbati’s final moments on the operating table. “Sister Leonella was still alive; she was in a cold sweat. We held hands, looked at each other and, before turning out like a little candle, three times she repeated to me ‘forgive.’ ‘Forgive, forgive, forgive…’ These were her last words,” she said.

Sr. Sgorbati’s funeral will be held Thursday at Consolata Church in Nairobi.

This morning Pope Benedict XVI sent a telegram, through Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, offering his condolences and prayers to the Consolata community, of which Sr. Sgorbati was a part. The communication called the sister’s death “tragic” and deplored the manner in which she was “barbarically murdered.”

“In firmly reaffirming his condemnation of every type of violence, His Holiness hopes that the blood poured from this faithful disciple of the Gospel will become a seed of hope for the construction of an authentic fraternity between peoples, in the mutual respect for the religious convictions of all,” the telegram said.

A Swedish journalist and a Somali peace activist, also foreigners, have been killed in Mogadishu recent months. According to the Associated Press, their deaths coincide with a rise in Islamic radicalism in Somalia, as a hard-line Muslim militia expands its reach.

Monday, September 18, 2006

How To React

The question is not should we oppose the violence in faith. But how should we oppose it. Oscar Romero said:

We have never preached violence,
except the violence of love,
which left Christ nailed to a cross,
the violence that we each must do to ourselves
to overcome our selfishness
and such cruel inequalities among us.

The violence we preach is not the violence of the sword,
the violence of hatred.

It is the violence of love,
of brotherhood,
the violence that wills to beat weapons
into sickles for work.

Archbishop Oscar Romero, November 27, 1977

We can not forget that the points from last week are not new to the Pope:

In acknowledging the centrality of love, Christian faith has retained the core of Israel's faith, while at the same time giving it new depth and breadth. The pious Jew prayed daily the words of the Book of Deuteronomy which expressed the heart of his existence: “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord, and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your might” (6:4-5).

Jesus united into a single precept this commandment of love for God and the commandment of love for neighbour found in the Book of Leviticus: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (19:18; cf. Mk 12:29-31). Since God has first loved us (cf. 1 Jn 4:10), love is now no longer a mere “command”; it is the response to the gift of love with which God draws near to us.

In a world where the name of God is sometimes associated with vengeance or even a duty of hatred and violence, this message is both timely and significant.

Deus Caritas Est

Now, it is because of love that the violence brought by fundamentalists angers and hurts us so much. It is because of love that voices are raised in opposition. But what should not be done is the advocating of violence, even implicity, as an immediate resort. Also, it should not be advocated as a personal action. This is what defines us.

Doing so has the danger of removing the understanding that there are muslims who are not radicals, and although we disagree with the theology of even the non-violent muslims, we should not group them together.

Historically, as Catholics (and Christians in general) we have been grouped, by others; not with the great examples of our faith, but with the exceptions. Many of us have been forced to defend the behavior of public, historical and everyday Catholics and explain what the Church really teaches.

And in those cases we often come away saying, "Why couldn't that person have been less confrontational and not assumed that I represented what they were angry about. We could have come to a better solution or dialogue."

At times we (all of us, despite our best intentions) run the danger of letting that happen.

We do not agree with muslim theology (even the non-radicals) and try to show the Christian way, but truth can be said harshly without charity or it can be phrased with charity. I believe that the truth can be stated boldly, forcefully and in the full spirit of truth with charity.

Radicals are calling for the death of the Pope. It makes us angry. Angry like Peter when the struck off the ear of the guard in the garden. But that is not what Christ (or the Pope) is asking of us.

We want to defend our Pope and all Christians, but we need to do it in the way he and Christ lay out as our example.

So maybe the question should be: How should we each in our personal lives (in our relations with muslims and others) react to this situation?

With truth. I have spent days explaining to people what the Pope said. I have talked endlessly in personal conversations about the differences between Christianity and Islam and Islam and radical Islam.

We have non-violent means of reaction available to us. We have effetive means of non-violent actionif we invest the time to use them. We have congress. We have charities. We have our personal interactions with others. We do not have to back down from stating the ugly truth about radical Islam. We do not have to back down from disagreeing with the theology of Islam in general. But we must not answer cries of violence with violence.

It is the nearness of God incarnated in Christ that defines a Christian. It is that nearness that calls us to react with reason over violence. That is the heart of the Pope's message.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

The Pope's Speech: An appeal for Faith with Reason Falls on Deaf Ears.

I suppose for some time it will be referred to as "The Pope's Speech". It is, in my opinion the single most misunderstood speech I have ever read. This is not to say that the Pope is not against Muslim radicals and spreading faith by violence, but the stand he takes in his speech is greater than that.

The speech is not about Islam it is about faith and reason. It is about how the use of violence and force to make someone a religion is not of God. How God and reason are not exclusive concepts. It is about how that is an element from greek thought and how, as the modern philosophical concept moves away from such thought...can we still keep it. As modern philosophy makes the choice of God a freedom that is considered the highest exercise of reason, can we show just how the acceptance of God is actually the highest use of reason. It is about how some faiths:

This gives rise to positions which clearly approach those of Ibn Hazn and might even lead to the image of a capricious God, who is not even bound to truth and goodness. God's transcendence and otherness are so exalted that our reason, our sense of the true and good, are no longer an authentic mirror of God, whose deepest possibilities remain eternally unattainable and hidden behind his actual decisions.

(In Crossing the Threshold of Hope, John Paul II said the God of Islam is a God so majestic that He is removed from His people, and though Benedict does not us Islam as a specific example...I'm sure he did not use the words by accident).

He contrasts that with the Christian view:

As opposed to this, the faith of the Church has always insisted that between God and us, between his eternal Creator Spirit and our created reason there exists a real analogy, in which unlikeness remains infinitely greater than likeness, yet not to the point of abolishing analogy and its language (cf. Lateran IV).

God does not become more divine when we push him away from us in a sheer, impenetrable voluntarism; rather, the truly divine God is the God who has revealed himself as logos and, as logos, has acted and continues to act lovingly on our behalf. Certainly, love "transcends" knowledge and is thereby capable of perceiving more than thought alone (cf. Ephesians 3:19); nonetheless it continues to be love of the God who is logos. Consequently, Christian worship is "logic latreía" -- worship in harmony with the eternal Word and with our reason (cf. Romans 12:1).

This is the heart of the speech. Faith with reason is the best use of our faith since we aare in the image of God. If we do not have reason we fall to violence, athesim or an apathy about God that fills our world today.

And the media takes a single part and runs with the only time the word Muslim is used. The radical Muslims give their answer by reacting. Not with reason. But violence and anger.

We can not be afraid to speak because of how some might take it. And in the reaction to the Pope's speech, his words are proven true.

Finally let's look at the apology:

Pope Benedict told Muslims on Saturday he was sorry they had found his speech on Islam offensive, expressing his respect for their faith and hoping they would understand the “true sense” of his words.

“The Holy Father is very sorry that some passages of his speech may have sounded offensive to the sensibilities of Muslim believers,” Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone said in a statement.

Not sorry he said it, because he shouldn't be. Not sorry he used those words. But sorry that others are not using reason.

And further lack of reason:

Two churches -- neither of them Catholic -- were fire-bombed in the West Bank, although no one was hurt.

But the Chancellor of Germany got it right:

“It was an invitation to dialogue between religions, she told the mass-circulation Bild newspaper in an interview. “What Benedict XVI emphasized was a decisive and uncompromising renunciation of all forms of violence in the name of religion.”

Friday, September 15, 2006

A bit busy today

I'm a bit busy today, but I'll be writing about the Pope's trip to Germany in the next two days.

Before that, here is the full text of the speech that has caused so much uproar (I'll give my thoughts in the next post. But this speech is about God and reason and God removed vs God With Us. The word Muslim occurs once. Violence is not of God and it is not rational. Only faith, guided by reason, of which love is a part, will solve the worlds problems. This is very much part of his point :

Papal Address at University of Regensburg

"Three Stages in the Program of De-Hellenization"

REGENSBURG, Germany, SEPT. 12, 2006 ( Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered to scientists at the University of Regensburg, where he was a professor and vice rector from 1969 to 1971.

This is the version the Pope read, adding some allusions of the moment, which he hopes to publish in the future, complete with footnotes. Hence, the present text must be considered provisional.

* * *

Faith, Reason and the University
Memories and Reflections

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a moving experience for me to stand and give a lecture at this university podium once again. I think back to those years when, after a pleasant period at the Freisinger Hochschule, I began teaching at the University of Bonn. This was in 1959, in the days of the old university made up of ordinary professors. The various chairs had neither assistants nor secretaries, but in recompense there was much direct contact with students and in particular among the professors themselves. We would meet before and after lessons in the rooms of the teaching staff. There was a lively exchange with historians, philosophers, philologists and, naturally, between the two theological faculties.

Once a semester there was a "dies academicus," when professors from every faculty appeared before the students of the entire university, making possible a genuine experience of "universitas": The reality that despite our specializations which at times make it difficult to communicate with each other, we made up a whole, working in everything on the basis of a single rationality with its various aspects and sharing responsibility for the right use of reason -- this reality became a lived experience.

The university was also very proud of its two theological faculties. It was clear that, by inquiring about the reasonableness of faith, they too carried out a work which is necessarily part of the "whole" of the "universitas scientiarum," even if not everyone could share the faith which theologians seek to correlate with reason as a whole. This profound sense of coherence within the universe of reason was not troubled, even when it was once reported that a colleague had said there was something odd about our university: It had two faculties devoted to something that did not exist: God. That even in the face of such radical skepticism it is still necessary and reasonable to raise the question of God through the use of reason, and to do so in the context of the tradition of the Christian faith: This, within the university as a whole, was accepted without question.

I was reminded of all this recently, when I read the edition by professor Theodore Khoury (Muenster) of part of the dialogue carried on -- perhaps in 1391 in the winter barracks near Ankara -- by the erudite Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both.

It was probably the emperor himself who set down this dialogue, during the siege of Constantinople between 1394 and 1402; and this would explain why his arguments are given in greater detail than the responses of the learned Persian. The dialogue ranges widely over the structures of faith contained in the Bible and in the Koran, and deals especially with the image of God and of man, while necessarily returning repeatedly to the relationship of the "three Laws": the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Koran.

In this lecture I would like to discuss only one point -- itself rather marginal to the dialogue itself -- which, in the context of the issue of "faith and reason," I found interesting and which can serve as the starting point for my reflections on this issue.

In the seventh conversation ("diálesis" -- controversy) edited by professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the jihad (holy war). The emperor must have known that sura 2:256 reads: "There is no compulsion in religion." It is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under [threat]. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Koran, concerning holy war.

Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the "Book" and the "infidels," he turns to his interlocutor somewhat brusquely with the central question on the relationship between religion and violence in general, in these words: "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."

The emperor goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. "God is not pleased by blood, and not acting reasonably ("syn logo") is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats.... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death...."

The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: Not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature. The editor, Theodore Khoury, observes: For the emperor, as a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, this statement is self-evident. But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality. Here Khoury quotes a work of the noted French Islamist R. Arnaldez, who points out that Ibn Hazn went so far as to state that God is not bound even by his own word, and that nothing would oblige him to reveal the truth to us. Were it God's will, we would even have to practice idolatry.

As far as understanding of God and thus the concrete practice of religion is concerned, we find ourselves faced with a dilemma which nowadays challenges us directly. Is the conviction that acting unreasonably contradicts God's nature merely a Greek idea, or is it always and intrinsically true?

I believe that here we can see the profound harmony between what is Greek in the best sense of the word and the biblical understanding of faith in God. Modifying the first verse of the Book of Genesis, John began the prologue of his Gospel with the words: "In the beginning was the 'logos.'"

This is the very word used by the emperor: God acts with logos. Logos means both reason and word -- a reason which is creative and capable of self-communication, precisely as reason. John thus spoke the final word on the biblical concept of God, and in this word all the often toilsome and tortuous threads of biblical faith find their culmination and synthesis. In the beginning was the logos, and the logos is God, says the Evangelist. The encounter between the biblical message and Greek thought did not happen by chance.

The vision of St. Paul, who saw the roads to Asia barred and in a dream saw a Macedonian man plead with him: "Come over to Macedonia and help us!" (cf. Acts 16:6-10) -- this vision can be interpreted as a "distillation" of the intrinsic necessity of a rapprochement between biblical faith and Greek inquiry.

In point of fact, this rapprochement had been going on for some time. The mysterious name of God, revealed from the burning bush, a name which separates this God from all other divinities with their many names and declares simply that he is, already presents a challenge to the notion of myth, to which Socrates' attempt to vanquish and transcend myth stands in close analogy. Within the Old Testament, the process which started at the burning bush came to new maturity at the time of the Exile, when the God of Israel, an Israel now deprived of its land and worship, was proclaimed as the God of heaven and earth and described in a simple formula which echoes the words uttered at the burning bush: "I am."

This new understanding of God is accompanied by a kind of enlightenment, which finds stark expression in the mockery of gods who are merely the work of human hands (cf. Psalm 115). Thus, despite the bitter conflict with those Hellenistic rulers who sought to accommodate it forcibly to the customs and idolatrous cult of the Greeks, biblical faith, in the Hellenistic period, encountered the best of Greek thought at a deep level, resulting in a mutual enrichment evident especially in the later wisdom literature.

Today we know that the Greek translation of the Old Testament produced at Alexandria -- the Septuagint -- is more than a simple (and in that sense perhaps less than satisfactory) translation of the Hebrew text: It is an independent textual witness and a distinct and important step in the history of Revelation, one which brought about this encounter in a way that was decisive for the birth and spread of Christianity. A profound encounter of faith and reason is taking place here, an encounter between genuine enlightenment and religion. From the very heart of Christian faith and, at the same time, the heart of Greek thought now joined to faith, Manuel II was able to say: Not to act "with logos" is contrary to God's nature.

In all honesty, one must observe that in the late Middle Ages we find trends in theology which would sunder this synthesis between the Greek spirit and the Christian spirit. In contrast with the so-called intellectualism of Augustine and Thomas, there arose with Duns Scotus a voluntarism which ultimately led to the claim that we can only know God's "voluntas ordinata." Beyond this is the realm of God's freedom, in virtue of which he could have done the opposite of everything he has actually done.

This gives rise to positions which clearly approach those of Ibn Hazn and might even lead to the image of a capricious God, who is not even bound to truth and goodness. God's transcendence and otherness are so exalted that our reason, our sense of the true and good, are no longer an authentic mirror of God, whose deepest possibilities remain eternally unattainable and hidden behind his actual decisions.

As opposed to this, the faith of the Church has always insisted that between God and us, between his eternal Creator Spirit and our created reason there exists a real analogy, in which unlikeness remains infinitely greater than likeness, yet not to the point of abolishing analogy and its language (cf. Lateran IV).

God does not become more divine when we push him away from us in a sheer, impenetrable voluntarism; rather, the truly divine God is the God who has revealed himself as logos and, as logos, has acted and continues to act lovingly on our behalf. Certainly, love "transcends" knowledge and is thereby capable of perceiving more than thought alone (cf. Ephesians 3:19); nonetheless it continues to be love of the God who is logos. Consequently, Christian worship is "logic latreía" -- worship in harmony with the eternal Word and with our reason (cf. Romans 12:1).

This inner rapprochement between biblical faith and Greek philosophical inquiry was an event of decisive importance not only from the standpoint of the history of religions, but also from that of world history -- it is an event which concerns us even today. Given this convergence, it is not surprising that Christianity, despite its origins and some significant developments in the East, finally took on its historically decisive character in Europe. We can also express this the other way around: This convergence, with the subsequent addition of the Roman heritage, created Europe and remains the foundation of what can rightly be called Europe.

The thesis that the critically purified Greek heritage forms an integral part of Christian faith has been countered by the call for a de-Hellenization of Christianity -- a call which has more and more dominated theological discussions since the beginning of the modern age. Viewed more closely, three stages can be observed in the program of de-Hellenization: Although interconnected, they are clearly distinct from one another in their motivations and objectives.

De-Hellenization first emerges in connection with the fundamental postulates of the Reformation in the 16th century. Looking at the tradition of scholastic theology, the Reformers thought they were confronted with a faith system totally conditioned by philosophy, that is to say an articulation of the faith based on an alien system of thought. As a result, faith no longer appeared as a living historical Word but as one element of an overarching philosophical system.

The principle of "sola scriptura," on the other hand, sought faith in its pure, primordial form, as originally found in the biblical Word. Metaphysics appeared as a premise derived from another source, from which faith had to be liberated in order to become once more fully itself. When Kant stated that he needed to set thinking aside in order to make room for faith, he carried this program forward with a radicalism that the Reformers could never have foreseen. He thus anchored faith exclusively in practical reason, denying it access to reality as a whole.

The liberal theology of the 19th and 20th centuries ushered in a second stage in the process of de-Hellenization, with Adolf von Harnack as its outstanding representative. When I was a student, and in the early years of my teaching, this program was highly influential in Catholic theology too. It took as its point of departure Pascal's distinction between the God of the philosophers and the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

In my inaugural lecture at Bonn in 1959, I tried to address the issue. I will not repeat here what I said on that occasion, but I would like to describe at least briefly what was new about this second stage of de-Hellenization. Harnack's central idea was to return simply to the man Jesus and to his simple message, underneath the accretions of theology and indeed of Hellenization: This simple message was seen as the culmination of the religious development of humanity. Jesus was said to have put an end to worship in favor of morality. In the end he was presented as the father of a humanitarian moral message.

The fundamental goal was to bring Christianity back into harmony with modern reason, liberating it, that is to say, from seemingly philosophical and theological elements, such as faith in Christ's divinity and the triune God. In this sense, historical-critical exegesis of the New Testament restored to theology its place within the university: Theology, for Harnack, is something essentially historical and therefore strictly scientific. What it is able to say critically about Jesus is, so to speak, an expression of practical reason and consequently it can take its rightful place within the university.

Behind this thinking lies the modern self-limitation of reason, classically expressed in Kant's "Critiques," but in the meantime further radicalized by the impact of the natural sciences. This modern concept of reason is based, to put it briefly, on a synthesis between Platonism (Cartesianism) and empiricism, a synthesis confirmed by the success of technology.

On the one hand it presupposes the mathematical structure of matter, its intrinsic rationality, which makes it possible to understand how matter works and use it efficiently: This basic premise is, so to speak, the Platonic element in the modern understanding of nature. On the other hand, there is nature's capacity to be exploited for our purposes, and here only the possibility of verification or falsification through experimentation can yield ultimate certainty. The weight between the two poles can, depending on the circumstances, shift from one side to the other. As strongly positivistic a thinker as J. Monod has declared himself a convinced Platonist/Cartesian.

This gives rise to two principles which are crucial for the issue we have raised. First, only the kind of certainty resulting from the interplay of mathematical and empirical elements can be considered scientific. Anything that would claim to be science must be measured against this criterion. Hence the human sciences, such as history, psychology, sociology and philosophy, attempt to conform themselves to this canon of scientificity.

A second point, which is important for our reflections, is that by its very nature this method excludes the question of God, making it appear an unscientific or pre-scientific question. Consequently, we are faced with a reduction of the radius of science and reason, one which needs to be questioned.

We shall return to this problem later. In the meantime, it must be observed that from this standpoint any attempt to maintain theology's claim to be "scientific" would end up reducing Christianity to a mere fragment of its former self. But we must say more: It is man himself who ends up being reduced, for the specifically human questions about our origin and destiny, the questions raised by religion and ethics, then have no place within the purview of collective reason as defined by "science" and must thus be relegated to the realm of the subjective.

The subject then decides, on the basis of his experiences, what he considers tenable in matters of religion, and the subjective "conscience" becomes the sole arbiter of what is ethical. In this way, though, ethics and religion lose their power to create a community and become a completely personal matter. This is a dangerous state of affairs for humanity, as we see from the disturbing pathologies of religion and reason which necessarily erupt when reason is so reduced that questions of religion and ethics no longer concern it. Attempts to construct an ethic from the rules of evolution or from psychology and sociology, end up being simply inadequate.

Before I draw the conclusions to which all this has been leading, I must briefly refer to the third stage of de-Hellenization, which is now in progress. In the light of our experience with cultural pluralism, it is often said nowadays that the synthesis with Hellenism achieved in the early Church was a preliminary inculturation which ought not to be binding on other cultures.

The latter are said to have the right to return to the simple message of the New Testament prior to that inculturation, in order to inculturate it anew in their own particular milieux. This thesis is not only false; it is coarse and lacking in precision. The New Testament was written in Greek and bears the imprint of the Greek spirit, which had already come to maturity as the Old Testament developed.

True, there are elements in the evolution of the early Church which do not have to be integrated into all cultures. Nonetheless, the fundamental decisions made about the relationship between faith and the use of human reason are part of the faith itself; they are developments consonant with the nature of faith itself.

And so I come to my conclusion. This attempt, painted with broad strokes, at a critique of modern reason from within has nothing to do with putting the clock back to the time before the Enlightenment and rejecting the insights of the modern age. The positive aspects of modernity are to be acknowledged unreservedly: We are all grateful for the marvelous possibilities that it has opened up for mankind and for the progress in humanity that has been granted to us. The scientific ethos, moreover, is the will to be obedient to the truth, and, as such, it embodies an attitude which reflects one of the basic tenets of Christianity.

The intention here is not one of retrenchment or negative criticism, but of broadening our concept of reason and its application. While we rejoice in the new possibilities open to humanity, we also see the dangers arising from these possibilities and we must ask ourselves how we can overcome them.

We will succeed in doing so only if reason and faith come together in a new way, if we overcome the self-imposed limitation of reason to the empirically verifiable, and if we once more disclose its vast horizons. In this sense theology rightly belongs in the university and within the wide-ranging dialogue of sciences, not merely as a historical discipline and one of the human sciences, but precisely as theology, as inquiry into the rationality of faith.

Only thus do we become capable of that genuine dialogue of cultures and religions so urgently needed today. In the Western world it is widely held that only positivistic reason and the forms of philosophy based on it are universally valid. Yet the world's profoundly religious cultures see this exclusion of the divine from the universality of reason as an attack on their most profound convictions.

A reason which is deaf to the divine and which relegates religion into the realm of subcultures is incapable of entering into the dialogue of cultures. At the same time, as I have attempted to show, modern scientific reason with its intrinsically Platonic element bears within itself a question which points beyond itself and beyond the possibilities of its methodology. Modern scientific reason quite simply has to accept the rational structure of matter and the correspondence between our spirit and the prevailing rational structures of nature as a given, on which its methodology has to be based.

Yet the question why this has to be so is a real question, and one which has to be remanded by the natural sciences to other modes and planes of thought -- to philosophy and theology. For philosophy and, albeit in a different way, for theology, listening to the great experiences and insights of the religious traditions of humanity, and those of the Christian faith in particular, is a source of knowledge, and to ignore it would be an unacceptable restriction of our listening and responding.

Here I am reminded of something Socrates said to Phaedo. In their earlier conversations, many false philosophical opinions had been raised, and so Socrates says: "It would be easily understandable if someone became so annoyed at all these false notions that for the rest of his life he despised and mocked all talk about being -- but in this way he would be deprived of the truth of existence and would suffer a great loss."

The West has long been endangered by this aversion to the questions which underlie its rationality, and can only suffer great harm thereby. The courage to engage the whole breadth of reason, and not the denial of its grandeur -- this is the program with which a theology grounded in biblical faith enters into the debates of our time.

"Not to act reasonably (with logos) is contrary to the nature of God," said Manuel II, according to his Christian understanding of God, in response to his Persian interlocutor. It is to this great logos, to this breadth of reason, that we invite our partners in the dialogue of cultures. To rediscover it constantly is the great task of the university.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Lift your voice in Prayer: Love as Active

We are called to prayer. We are called to love.

So many times we are asked to raise or join our voices in prayer. How?

True, the great expressions of faith in our liturgies, songs and devotions are examples of this. But the core, the Eucharist is an act of love. The core of the liturgy and the core of Christian life is love.

The beatitudes:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, 4 for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,for they will be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you (falsely) because of me.

Can they be given a core? Yes. Blessed are those who love. Who love God. Who love others. Blessed is love.

But love, far from passive is active. Far from calm, is a burning desire. It is love that led our Lord to come to us. Love that led Him to die for us. Love that leads our brothers and sisters to stand firm in the face of persecution.

And it is love that should cause us to lift our voice in opposition to persecution. To lift your voice in prayer is to lift it in love. It is to Pray. To write. To speak. To stand against harm to others.

Life itself is a prayer because it is alive with love. Guided by love. May the silent prayers in our hearts be joined to the active expression of the love of Christ toward others.

Love puts us in the heart and life of another through the One Body in Christ.

We are not only people sitting at a computer reading this.

We are a girl in Egypt preparing for her wedding who is kidnapped and taken away.

We are a husband waiting for the one you love, as the bridegroom waits in the Song of Songs.

We are a family who has a moment of joy turned to sorrow.

We are again at the computer, but can We go back to it unchanged? Love transforms us. It awakens our hearts. May the life in Christ move us to prayer and action.

For Mona Yacoub
For Marianna Rezk Shafik Attallah
For Tereza Ghattas Kamal
For Lydia Atef Atta
For Ingy Nagy Edwar

For all who suffer as they do.

We work in a good job, but We are also a Copt who can not get a good job because the ID badge names you a Christian.

We are in Church free from fear, but We are also a Copt who knows that you could get stabbed or shot leaving the service on Good Friday or any day.

We might attend a church at a building that has stood for 200 years, but We are also a Copt who must watch as a monastery that has stood for 1,400 years is demolished.

We donate for church repair, but We are also a Copt who sees their place of worship fall apart and get killed for trying to repair it.

We celebrate the Eucharist, the most holy event we share. But We are also a Copt who, as on September 19, 2003, watches as security throws the consecrated Host to the ground and steps on it.

We see children playing but you are also a handicapped Coptic child who sees the center devoted to helping them attacked, as in November of 2003 and again in 2004 and again in 2005.

We are all of these things and more (link)

We are and must see ourselves as one. Tell one person today what our brothers and sisters suffer. Tell another tomorrow. Do what you can.

Let our prayer be an active love that seeks to fill those who hunger and thirst for justice. And let us do it with the love of Christ, not with hate. Because love is the active force of a better world.

As St. Theresa of Avila wrote:

Christ has no body now but yours
No hands, no feet on earth but yours
Yours are the eyes through which He looks
compassion on this world
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

We are all one in the Body of Christ.
What love is too great for that heart to feel?
What good is too great for those hands to accomplish?

To write Congress and our politicians:

(link) House of Representatives
(link) E mail and Fax numbers for Congress and state Governors

To write Catholic Bishops:

[(link)] With your bishop will be a link to your diocese web page or other contact info. You can use the search bar to look anywhere in the world.

To help the suffering children in any way you can. Coptic Orphans (link).

If anyone has any other ways or events in support of our brother and sisters always feel free to email them to me and I will get them up here as fast as possible.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Mona Yacoub

From time to time I have done stories on this blog about the kidnapping and forced conversion of Coptic girls in Egypt. A good friend of this blog, Peter, sent me this story about a Catholic girl who has been taken.

Here is the link (link).

Let me echo a part of this post:

On to what YOU can do, it’s very simple (as I may have mentioned above).

Just pretend this is the Gospel and SPREAD the (not-so-Good) news. TELL people about this poor girl.

Tell your friends online, skip the gossip and share THIS around the water cooler, or even just forward this and other articles to people who might be interested.

Also, educate yourself about kidnapping. It happens all over Egypt, and most cases end up in tragedy, not with a “happy ending.”

And also:

Finally, for the Catholics out there, WRITE to your bishop or priest, and ask them to tell the Pope about his Egyptian daughter whose status as a Christian is hanging in the balance.

It should not matter what faith a person is when an innocent is kidnapped. So many people deny these things happen. If you are a person who does not believe such things happen, then support the investigation of these acts. There is nothing to lose, and if you are wrong innocents will be saved. The only reasonable act of love is to stand against these horrors, no matter who they befall.

If you are a Catholic please write your bishop and talk to your priest about this case. Info on how to contact your bishop or diocese:

[(link)] With your bishop will be a link to your diocese web page or other contact info. You can use the search bar to look anywhere in the world.

But do not just mention poor Mona. Bring to light all of our Coptic brothers and sisters who suffer.

Write. Pray. Hope. Love.

Always, In Christ.

Nefertetti has covered such stories in the past. For info on these types of cases:

(link) Marianna Rezk Shafik Attallah
(link)Tereza Ghattas Kamal
(link)Lydia Atef Atta
(link) An overview of a few cases

And I could keep going with this list.

Friday, September 01, 2006


I'll be totally back to my normal schedule Monday and will be blogging again with more frequency.